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Criminal Found Family

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"Accomplices, associates, and family. From now on, that is what we will be."

Societal outcasts are often drawn to a Family of Choice: rejected by society and likely their own blood family, they have to make a family of their own. And by nature of defying their society's laws, criminals are generally outcasts. So when criminals join together with a common (illegal) purpose?

A found family is born.

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The criminal activities underscore the violation of societal expectations universal with a Family of Choice, but also indicate a distaste for society: these are people who don't fit in and no longer try. The more heroic ones often want to change society for the better and find a place in it, but just as many want to burn the whole thing down.

Because of this, Criminal Found Families tend to be villains or antiheroes rather than traditional hero types. They're also more likely to start the narrative already a team. While heroes spend the story building their bonds and becoming Fire-Forged Friends, a shared criminal goal before any Call to Adventure is often just as good.

Many queer-coded villains can be found in one of these since the Family of Choice is often associated with queer culture and criminals with villainy. The popularity of the found family trope, however, is likely to cast them sympathetically or at least in a way that appeals to the audience.

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There is a fair amount of Truth in Television here: young teenagers who fall into gangs often do so looking for community support, even though it's likely to negatively affect them in the long run.

A subtrope of Family of Choice.

This trope is not necessarily The Family such as The Mafia or another crime syndicate trope, although it can be. It's more likely to overlap with Even Evil Has Loved Ones, Even Evil Can Be Loved, Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, and Villainous Friendship.

Compare Caper Crew. Compare and contrast Better Off with the Bad Guys, Evil Is One Big, Happy Family, and Band of Brothers. Contrast Siblings in Crime and The Family That Slays Together.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Most small criminal groups in Baccano! tend to be this, including the Martillo family, the Gandor family, and Jacuzzi's delinquents.
  • Banana Fish: Most of the gangs (especially Ash's) fit into found family dynamics of young teenage boys finding comfort and companionship in each other despite their violent, criminal lifestyles (some Truth in Television), which is a homey contrast to the high-class but emotionally cold higher-ups in the Corsican mafia and Yut-Lung's organization.
  • Bungo Stray Dogs: When Chuuya finally gets information on his biological family in order to seek them out and meet them, he elects not to and decides the Port Mafia is where his true family is. He loathes anyone who hurts his subordinates.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Greed and his gang of chimeras are a tight-knit group who look out for each other, and are fully willing to die for each other. In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Marta outright says they're the closest thing she has to a family.
  • Great Pretender: While the official motto of the confidence team defies the idea that they're friends or family and they all insist they'd leave each other behind in an instant, this never actually happens. They all go to great lengths to help each other out, not only when they're in danger because of their con, but to deal with their past trauma before they'd even joined the team.
  • Hunter × Hunter: The Phantom Troupe was founded in Meteor City, a place where everyone abandons things they don't want—including people. They chose to join up and work together as one piece of a greater group of thieves that is more important than any of the individual members, but that doesn't mean they didn't slip into prioritizing each other fiercely, especially the founding members.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind: Team Bucciarati consists of several gangsters from the Passione syndicate, an expansive empire with influences all over Italy and the Mediterranean. The members all have consistently Dark and Troubled Pasts where they've been wronged by the people and systems in their lives. This ranges from Narancia being betrayed by his childhood friends to Abbacchio's betrayal by his time in the corrupt and ineffective police force. The gang all have a deep trust and respect in each other, and their ultimate goal is to take over Passione and turn it into a force of good for the people of Italy.
  • Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force: The Hückebein and the Grendel "families" are tightly-knit groups of otherwise unrelated Eclipse Drivers who banded around a parental figure (Curren Hückebein and Kurt Grendel, respectively) to escape prosecution for their crimes (mostly armed robbery and terrorism).
  • Michiko & Hatchin: The title characters find family in each other after Michiko breaks out of prison and technically kidnaps Hatchin from her abusive foster family and they end up on the run trying to find Hatchin's biological father, before finding each other again in an epilogue and coming together as family does.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: Moriarty's crew all views each other as family, most of them live together, and they share strong bonds of mutual affection and Undying Loyalty. Except for William and Louis, none of them share any blood ties, but even Albert chose them specifically to adopt into his legal family. They work together under the moniker "The Lord of Crime," hoping to improve society. While they eventually give up their criminal ways and start atoning for their crimes, they stay together and continue to work together even while trying to make up for their sins.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • The League of Villains grows into one after a rough start. They all follow Shigaraki, or at least ally with him, because of shared goals against society, and after a few arcs, they start taking revenge when one of them gets hurt, and Shigaraki, a formerly abandoned kid with a lot of trauma issues, decides they are his True Companions.
    • Downplayed with La Brava and Gentle. They were both misfits shunned by society who joined forces to commit crimes, but these crimes are often insanely petty and mostly done for the sake of notoriety. They also love each other more than anything, to the point where it allows the activation of La Brava's Quirk... which is quite literally The Power of Love. When Izuku takes down Gentle, La Brava even starts hitting him, crying and begging him to leave Gentle alone.
  • One Piece: While the Straw Hat Pirates tend not to commit many of the crimes associated with pirates, they are still criminals with a massive collective bounty on their heads. One of the recurring themes of the series is how much they all love each other, how well they work together, and the lengths they would go to for each other.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Team Rocket (the Jesse/James/Meowth trio, anyway) are all misfits even among their syndicate. Even Giovanni doesn't have much time for any of them. But for all they bicker, they have found true companionship with each other.
  • Tokyo Revengers: While Izana defies the idea that the Tenjiku founding members are friends and insists that the only things uniting them are fear and self-interest, they still demonstrate remarkable solidarity and some level of attachment to each another. Several of them are also confirmed or hinted to have a poor home life, and given Izana's initial childhood aspirations for Tenjiku, this likely extends to all of them.
    Izana: We'll make everyone who has no family our citizens and give them a place to call home.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Bad Guys: The titular gang is a Caper Crew of predatory animals who were cast out of society for being seen as dangerous, and so became the villains people saw them as and bonded with each other through their shared hurt. They're structured like a family unit: Mr. Wolf and Mr. Snake are the parents, Ms. Tarantula is the eldest child, Mr. Shark is the middle child, and Mr. Piranha is the youngest.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Fast and the Furious: Dominic Toretto's group slowly turns into this as the films go and they get into escalating adventures and crimes. In the latter films, he straight-up starts calling them all his family and proves that they all will go through great pains and lengths to protect each other.
  • Goodfellas opens with a sequence depicting Henry Hill's youth in 1955 Brooklyn, befriending members of the Lucchese crime family there and finding them more caring than his actual Abusive Parents. The adult Hill's narration comments on his disillusionment with regular life, and as the first act of the film progresses, he gradually integrates himself further and further into the group until his older counterparts consider him family.
  • Hustlers: Destiny, Ramona, Mercedes and Annabelle eventually come to see each as family, which is highlighted during the scene when they all spent Christmas together. Destiny's daughter even calls Ramona "Aunt Ramona".

    Literature 
  • In Cal Leandros, the brothers alongside their eternal friend Robin Goodfellow, Niko's girlfriend Promise, Cal's boss Ishiah, and sometimes even a few others, make up a strong found family that mostly focus on protecting themselves and each other. But protecting their lives requires lots of illegal weapons and medication, under-the-table jobs, lying about their ages, and false identification, among other various crimes.
  • Gentleman Bastard: The Gentleman Bastards are a group of thieves raised together by the same criminal priest who worships the god of thieves and instilled in them strong bonds of affection, loyalty, and friendship.
  • Kelsier's crew in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy are practically family, and hold together long after Kelsier's death. Former Street Urchin Vin is fascinated because, in her experience, most gangs consist of backstabbers, and the fact that they trust each other (and her) is intriguing enough to keep her from running out on their insanely dangerous plan.
  • The Rise of Kyoshi: The various daofei (organized outlaw gangs) serve as a form of this, with the Flying Opera Company (founded by Avatar Kyoshi's parents) being the most prominent example. Their code binds them together as a family, and violations of its tenets are dealt with very harshly.
    "I shall swear these oaths. I swear to defend my brothers and sisters, and obey the commands of my elders. Their kin will be my kin, their blood my blood. Should I fail to uphold this vow, may I be hacked to death by many knives."
  • The Rogues of the Republic series features a Caper Crew picked for their skills by the protagonist who all reluctantly grow incredibly fond of each other and would do anything for each other by the end of the book.
  • Six of Crows: The main characters in the duology make up a found family heist crew that bickers at least as much as they help each other and care for one another.
  • While Sunny in Sunny Randall is divorced from Richie, his family still considers her as 'part of the family', especially when it comes to times where she might need protection during a case. Richie's family is a part of the criminal underworld, while Richie is the White Sheep of the family (kept out of things so that there's one "honest" member).
  • In Worm, Taylor is a girl who has no friends, is bullied at school, and basically ignored by her father because he is constantly wallowing in grief from the tragic death of Taylor's mother. Then she gains superpowers and wants to be a hero, but due to miscommunication falls in with a group of teenage villains on her first night on patrol. She tells herself she's going undercover to find out who their boss is, but it quickly becomes apparent that she gets more love and validation from the Undersiders than she has gotten from anyone else in years and eventually commits to villainy, finding ever more tortured justifications for her actions because she can't bring herself to abandon or condemn her friends.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gotham:
    • The young Ivy tries to form one of these with Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and Firefly in late season 3, outright calling them "a family of freaks," but realistically, these various characters prove too different and too selfish to ally for long outside of temporary mutual need. They were mostly held together by Fish, who claims Penguin is like a son to her and extends We Can Rule Together to him, and they disband not long after her death.
    • Penguin has actually formed a kind of family in his genuine Villainous Friendship with Riddler by the end of the series. They bicker Like an Old Married Couple, but they're very close and pretty much each other's Only Friend. In the penultimate episode of the series, they share a Man Hug and make a pact to take over the city together or not at all. Oswald even says they're brothers.
    • Barbara, Tabitha, and Selina form a group in season 4, serving as a kind of proto-Gotham City Sirens. Barbara at first sneeringly mocks this trope, but they end up playing it straight and she comes through for her friends/surrogate sisters.
  • Hustle follows a group of con artists who rely on each other and other thieves to know when they're not being screwed over. They squabble like any family, but they're always there to support each other even beyond the necessities for their work.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: In the episode "Streetwise", the detectives discover a young homeless girl lives with a group of other kids who are "taken care of" by two homeless adults: "Dad" and "Cassandra". A character even informs detectives that many cities have such "street families." Unfortunately, the kids are encouraged to rob and steal in order to survive. When it's discovered that "Dad" is also a murderer, and "Cassandra" isn't telling the truth, the Family falls apart.
  • Leverage follows a group of criminals trying to bring justice to society by using their skills to bring down Corrupt Corporate Executives and other powerful Asshole Victims. Over the course of the series, they grow to be incredibly tight-knit and almost emulate a "normal" nuclear family. The Sequel Series Leverage: Redemption continues this dynamic, despite adding two new characters and sidelining or dropping two of the original cast.
  • Money Heist: The heist gang start out as strangers who barely tolerate each other, but by the end of the Mint robbery they've bonded to the point of being a clear Family of Choice. The later robbery at the Royal Bank only occurs because Rio is captured and the others are all willing to give up their safe lives in hiding to try and rescue him.
  • Supernatural: In Season 10, Castiel tracks down the daughter of his vessel, Claire, and discovers she's a teen delinquent who has been living with an older man who expects her and other delinquent teens to steal for him. Claire is initially loyal to this man until he sells her to pay off his gambling debts.

    Music 

    Theatre 
  • Oliver!: The musical adaption of the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens tones down the harsh character of the master thief Fagin, and his gang of apprentice pickpockets seem to be a found family for orphan Oliver. Both the stage and film versions include the rollicking song "Consider Yourself", and almost makes being a street urchin in Victorian London seem like fun. Oliver does want to be considered "one of" the gang.

    Video Games 
  • In both The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Dark Brotherhood treat one another as a band of misfits who have formed a close-knit community with one another. While all of them are amoral psychopaths to some degree, they're all quite friendly with one another (including the player should they join them) and have each other's backs. Nonetheless the events of the questlines inevitably end with a majority of the family brutally purged (with the player themselves doing it in the case of the former).
  • Team Skull from Pokémon Sun and Moon and Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, though they aren't the best at actually being criminals outside of taking over Po Town. Their admin, Plumeria, even collectively refers to the grunts as "her cute, dumb brothers and sisters", and when Guzma tries to disband the team in the Ultra games, they refuse to leave purely out of Undying Loyalty to him.
  • The Black Mob/Robinson Family in Mafia III. After Saint Michelle's Orphanage closed down, the young Lincoln Clay went to work for them in his teenage years. There he began to view Sammy Robinson and his son Ellis as an adoptive father and brother respectively. Tragically, they are Killed by the Marcano Family with help from the Dixie Mafia in the game's Prologue missions, Driving the game's Revenge Plot
  • The van der Linde gang in Red Dead Redemption II starts as this, most of the group being outlaws of some sort and several of them (Arthur, John, Lenny, Tilly, and Jenny) joining at a young age, only to fall apart during the events of the game.
  • Sly Cooper: The core members of the Cooper Gang — Sly, Bentley, and Murray — all grew up together and consider each other brothers, all while being the world's finest thieves.

    Webcomics 
  • The Furry Webcomic Gun Kitty: The main characters, Ruana, Ace and Yumi, develop a familial bond with each other over the course of the series while working as a group of space pirates who regularly commit crimes.
  • In the Furry Webcomic NonPack, the Villain Protagonists are Los Satos, a canine gang of thieves and drug dealers. However, A Lighter Shade of Black is in full effect for them; they treat each other like family (and two of them are literally brother and sister), and the other crooks they deal with are much worse than they are.

    Western Animation 
  • The four antagonists of season three of The Legend of Korra, the Red Lotus, are a close-knit team who endured 13 years of solitary confinement rather than give each other up, and unlike every other antagonist group shown in the series, they fight together until the very end. They're implied to have been together since they were young, and the official Art Book includes a picture of them as teenagers happily posing for the camera together.
  • Silverhawks: Big Bad Mon*Star invokes this in "Uncle Rattler". After the Silverhawks capture Uncle Rattler, Yes-Man pleads that this villain is family. Mon*Star calmly puts his hand on Yes-Man's shoulder and tells him that the Mob is his family.
  • Star Wars: Rebels: Street Urchin Ezra Bridger crosses paths with the rebellious Ghost crew when he stumbles into one of their heists on Imperial cargo. The crew is composed of two survivors of genocides carried out by the Empire, the daughter of a rebel politician, an ex-Imperial cadet, and a bloodthirsty droid. It also turns out that Ezra's parents were rebel broadcasters who were arrested and never seen again, which is part of why he finds himself gravitating towards the crew.

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